UK Researcher Awarded $100K Grant To Study Protein Associated with Alzheimer’s


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 14, 2014)The Alzheimer’s Association has awarded a $100,000 New Investigator Research Grant to Jose Abisambra, assistant professor at the University of Kentucky's Sanders-Brown Center on Aging (SBCoA), to study a brain protein that becomes abnormally modified in the course of developing Alzheimer's disease.

The New Investigator Research Grant program is part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s effort to increase the number of scientists conducting Alzheimer’s research by supporting early-career development that will lay the groundwork for future research grants. Only investigators with fewer than 10 years of research experience are eligible for these particular grants.

"This is a particularly great honor for Jose, since his lab is not yet two years old," said Linda Van Eldik, SBCoA director. "His work will most likely inform how we look at the disease process and find ways to prevent or cure Alzheimer's and other diseases of the aging brain."

“It is an honor to receive this recognition and support, which will propel our research. This is a very competitive award, and we are thrilled that the scientific community is as excited as we are to see the project through.” said Abisambra. “Support from Sanders-Brown has been instrumental in helping us develop our data, and the continued support by the Sanders-Brown team will be critical for our success."

Abisambra’s research focuses on tau, a brain protein that stabilizes microtubules, which, in turn, help maintain cell structure. Abnormal tau modification leads to the cell death that is prevalent in brains affected by Alzheimer’s, but the mechanisms that lead to tau abnormalities and the reasons why a change in tau’s structure becomes toxic are not known.

According to Abisambra, compelling evidence indicates that abnormal and toxic tau associates very strongly with ribosomes, which are the hub of new protein production.

“Our research will lead to a better understanding of the process by which tau mediates ribosomal damage and how this phenomenon impairs memory in Alzheimer’s disease," said Abisambra. "This understanding is an instrumental next step toward developing new therapeutic strategies, which are urgently needed."

Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death, and the most expensive disease, in the United States.  Alzheimer’s kills more Americans than diabetes, and more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined.  More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, including more than 167,000 residents of Kentucky and Indiana.

The University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging was established in 1979 and is one of the original ten National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Alzheimer’s disease Research Centers. The SBCoA is internationally acclaimed for its progress in the fight against illnesses facing the aging population.